Solar flare, largest in five years
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – More than 4 million miles an hour. That's how fast charged particles from the sun are expected to hit Earth as early as Wednesday night or Thursday morning.
"It's a big burst from the sun of charged particles that react with our atmosphere and it excites the electrons in our atmosphere so they glow," News Channel 18's chief meteorologist, Chad Evans said.
A glow that would look like the Northern Lights. But don't go sky-gazing just yet. The colorful glow of flares from the magnetic storm may not make their way as far south of Indiana.
"It's very likely we will have a lot of them in the northern U.S. They may make their way to Indiana, but we're going to have clouds around, so even if there are some, it may be kind of hard to see them," Evans said.
Ephraim Fischbach, a physics professor at Purdue said so far this particular storm doesn't look to be too severe.
"There may be an interruption of telephone service and your cell phone may be impacted but we're not likely to be hurt and it's probably not going to destroy infrastructure," Fischbach said.
However, if the sun continues to have high activity, there could be larger storms in the future that could smack Earth with a more severe threat.
"That could literally wipe out much of civilization as we know it. It would destroy satellites, telephones, communication systems would go down and it would destroy power grids that could literally burn out transformers," Fischbach said.
The solar storm should last through Friday morning, but the region of the sun that erupted could still send more blasts our way
Fischbach and other Purdue professors are working on technology that would give people at least a day and a half notice before a major solar storm.
Fischbach said that way, government officials can turn on safe modes on GPS signals so it will limit destruction on Earth.